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Long and Short Books - Qualified Perceptions
Long and Short Books

Splashdance Silver (by Tansy Rayner Roberts)
An indie Kindle book. I stopped reading about halfway - it's not bad, just insufficiently good. It tries really really hard to be funny, and it does actually succeed a lot of the time, but the effort is visible. I rather liked the Profithood of Profit-scoundrels as a Thieves' Guild concept. (It's only repetitive because I put it together like that; the thieves/con men/cutpurses/burglars/whatevers are Profit-scoundrels, and their guild is the Profithood.) And the Hidden Army of Mercenaries, which specialized in camouflage verging on invisibility, not just metaphorical invisibility, was also funny. There really were a lot of funny bits, and it kind of reminded me of the early Terry Pratchett Rincewind stuff. So maybe you will like it a lot better than me.

Half-Off Ragnarok (by Seanan McGuire)
This is the third in the Discount Armageddon series. You can tell from the title. But it's really more of a murder mystery than an end of the world plot. Ah well, you have to stick with your title theme. I liked this better than books one and two (and I liked them fairly well) - in Discount Armageddon, the villainous plan was not all that clever; here, the murderer's plan is definitely not all that clever, but I can forgive that a lot more from a single killer than from a big conspiracy. And I found the double-classed cryptozoologist/zoologist more plausible than the double-classed cryptozoologist/ballroom danger, for some reason. Four stars, but basically, read this if you liked the previous two.

Three Parts Dead (by Max Gladstone)
This was awesome. Here's the book blurb, which captures a lot of it very efficiently: "A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart. Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis's steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot. Tara's job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who's having an understandable crisis of faith." "International necromantic firm" is one of the things to focus on there - the Craft is part magic and part law, while Church is more like part magic and part business. But both craft and religion are full, wholly-realized parts of the world, not at all Frankensteinian mishmashes. Those sentences don't mention Tara's terrifying senior associate boss, or the gargoyles, or that it's actually a pretty good puzzle murder mystery, or the vampire pirate captain (though he's a pretty small part)... there's a lot going on in this book, and all of it is brilliant. Here's a quote from Tara's terrifying boss.
"The Craft, young Abelard, is the art and science of using power as the gods do. But gods and men are different. Gods draw power from worship and sacrifice, and are shaped by that worship, that sacrifice. Craftsmen draw power from the stars and the earth, and are shaped by them in turn. We can also use human soulstuff for our ends, of course, but the stars are more reliable than men. Over the years a Craftswoman comes to have more in common with sky and stone than with the race to which she was born. Life seeps from her body, replaced with something else."
"Power." Her teeth were narrow. "We soak in starlight or bury ourselves in the soil or apply preservative unguents to ward against time, but eventually the flesh gives way. We become, as you put it" - she counted the words on her fingers - "bony, ancient, skeleton things."
Hey, and the author lives in Cambridge. Anyway. Read this one. There is one more book in the series out, and at least three more coming, but they are stories set in the same world, not using the same characters, so they're not true sequels and that shouldn't prevent you from starting. The world is so brilliant it would be a shame to only use it for one story. Three Parts Dead is only $3 for the Kindle, but then you'll be hooked and the next one is $11. Five stars.

Two Serpents Rise (by Max Gladstone)
This is the sequel. I didn't like it quite as much as the first, but it's a very different book. The first book is a mystery, and the protagonist is very cold (and it's all about fire). The second book is action, and the protagonist is surprisingly passionate (and it's all about water). The first book is set in a city with a (dead) benevolent god of fire; the second book has bound more-or-less Aztec gods, about blood and sacrifice. There is a big philosophical argument that goes through the book, that I simplify down to "If you are willing to die fighting against the bad gods to try to protect the people, why isn't it acceptable to die sacrificed to feed your heart to the bad gods to *definitely* protect the people?" The hero has the very very firm belief that NO IT IS NOT OKAY TO MURDER PEOPLE TO FEED GODS and I respect that. But my logical nature keeps toying with the opposing viewpoint being justifiable too. The trouble I have with the book isn't with any of that, though, it's with an error in judgement that the hero makes that runs as a flaw through most of the book, and it bugs me. There's a lot of good in-character justification for it, but it still bugs me. But even with liking it less than the first book, I like it quite a lot, and I have the third book on pre-order. Four stars.

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate (by Ted Chiang)
This won the Hugo and Nebula for Best Novelette in 2008, so note the word "novelette" there before buying it. But anyway, it was a charming set of Arabian Nights-ish stories-within-stories about time travel.

Surface Detail (by Iain M Banks)
Rest in peace, Mr. Banks. I don't know why I haven't read all your Culture books, but I still mean to. There are about six main characters, each on their own plotline, and at first they seem utterly unrelated (if quick to grab the reader). They come together by about a third of the way through (though they don't actually really *interact* much), and the story is more or less having to do with a philosophical difference / war over whether or not it is appropriate to upload (possibly) naughty people's consciounesses into Hells to be tortured after they die. Everything gets made a lot more grey by the fact that the team against the Hells seems to have cheaters and horrible people working for it - as, I suppose, does any team of an appreciable size. I like the optimism, the humor, the writing... pretty much everything. Four and a half stars ; this is maybe not the first book to read if you haven't read any Culture books. It doesn't matter much, though.

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime (by Marion Chesney)
This was free on Amazon, and is the second book in the series. I gather it doesn't matter *very* much. Anyway, it's sort of like a goofier version of Georgette Heyer, so if you've read all of Heyer already and have a cold and want to spend the day in bed, this series might be good.

Raising Steam (by Terry Pratchett)
The fortieth Discworld book. I read one review which described it as saying goodbye to all the characters, which I find terribly sad, so I think of it more as one of those epilogues which visits all the characters in a book or movie, and describes briefly the adventures they have thereafter. Except this is an epilogue to a forty-book series, so it's a whole book long. It is a story in its own right, of course - Moist von Lipwig and the Steam Engine - but it's not a story with a lot of tension. It's kind of one bad guy versus the entire cast of characters plus the moral arc of the universe, so he has no real hope of winning. Not the best Pratchett book in the world, but still worth a smile. Three and a half stars.

The Goblin Emperor (by Katherine Addison)
I liked this book extraordinarily well for a novel in which almost nothing happened. That is, lots of things happened, but aside from a few pages, they were all talking, and I wasn't ever bored. It's about conversations and alliances and understanding each other (or not) and grudges and compassion and loneliness and duty and courtly etiquette and... it's mostly everything I ever wanted from a Hidden City run. :) Five stars for me, but I admit it may not be for you.

Words of Radiance (by Brandon Sanderson)
This is the second book in Sanderson's Doorstop Tome (er, Stormlight Archive) series. I did laugh where I got to the part when it clearly became a Sanderson book - there's a list of ten powers, and each of the Knights Radiant has two, and what kind of Knight they are depends on the combination. Like the first book, it's kind of rambly (and Kaladin continues to angst; I appreciated when Shallan finally called him on "Look, you are not a special snowflake in having had horrible life experiences"). Anyway, if you liked the first one, you'll like this one.


11 comments or Leave a comment
mathhobbit From: mathhobbit Date: May 16th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
FWIW, I liked Sparrow Hill Road better than Half-off Ragnarok. It's ghost story genre, though.
greenlily From: greenlily Date: May 16th, 2014 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed Half-Off Ragnarok, as well as the first two InCryptid books. The mice are great, I love the wadjet, and the ongoing exploration of the Johrlac (apex predator, telepathic, should be ruling the world...why aren't they?) is interesting. I also like Alex a lot, but Shelby bored me silly. (It doesn't help that the front cover portrays her as an anatomically improbably Barbie doll type, whereas Alex gets to look like a real person on the cover.)

Sooner or later I'll have to read Raising Steam for completion's sake, but I'm not sure I can bear to read something that functions as saying goodbye to the Discworld.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 16th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hah, one aspect of reading books on Kindle is that you see a lot less of the cover. (I have a friend who can never remember the title of the book he's reading for that reason). Oh my goodness, yes, she does look like a Barbie there. (I did kind of like the occasional description of Australian wildlife, and I think that endeared Shelby to me more than it needed to. I wonder if drop bears exist in this universe.)
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: May 16th, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I appreciate your book reviews for their own amusement value as well as for the reading recommendations. :)
From: desireearmfeldt Date: May 16th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me too.
ironrat From: ironrat Date: May 20th, 2014 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Second this (third?). I definitely add books to me to-read list based on these reviews!
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: May 17th, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes, I just finished Steam last night, and that review helps me put it in context. It was kind of like an extended epilogue with a minor bad guy involved. I also read Railsea by China Mievelle, for the railway theme... not Mievelle's best either, but still a decent read.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 18th, 2014 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
The best explanation I have for Railsea is that China Mievelle had some sort of extended fit at having his name mispronounced Melville for the umpteenth time, and it generated a book.
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: May 20th, 2014 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hah! Yes, that would be a good explanation...
lillibet From: lillibet Date: May 18th, 2014 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I was just thinking "gee, there hasn't been a book review post in a while," so I was especially delighted to find this.

After hearing Brandon Sanderson's name mentioned often over the past few years, I finally read the Mistborn Saga this past week. I managed to make it all the way through and get a good night's sleep before my brain started asking pesky plot-hole questions, which I think speaks well of the books. I expect I will eventually read more of his work, but a break from magic-using systems is necessary.

I feel jealous that you haven't read all the Culture books yet, since it means that you still have new ones ahead of you. I keep thinking that perhaps I will go back and re-read them all, but have been too sad to do it yet.
11 comments or Leave a comment